Pak Likely to Remain on Grey List of Global Terror Watchdog, Say Sources; Final Decision on Friday

News18.com

New Delhi: A sub-group of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Tuesday recommended the continuation of Pakistan in the 'Grey List' for its failure to check terror funding and a final decision will be taken on February 21, sources said.

The decision was taken at the meeting of the FATF's International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG), held at the ongoing Paris plenary.

"The ICRG meeting, a sub-group of the FATF, has recommended to retain Pakistan in the 'Grey List'. A final decision will be taken on Friday when the FATF takes up issues concerning Pakistan," said a source.

The decision -- whether Pakistan will continue in the 'Grey List' or put in the 'Black List' — is being made at the week-long FATF plenary currently on in Paris. The plenary is examining the money laundering and terrorist financing risks that countries face to set and promote global standards to tackle these risks.

Pakistan was placed on the 'Grey List' by the FATF in June, 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete it by October last year or face the risk of being placed on the 'Black List' along with Iran and North Korea.

Pakistan needs 12 votes out of 39 to exit the 'Grey List' and move to the 'White List'. To avoid the 'Black List', it needs the support of three countries — sources said it has support from Turkey and Malaysia so far.

At last month's FATF meeting in Beijing, Pakistan has got support of Malaysia and Turkey besides FATF current chair China.

According to reports in Pakistani dailies, FATF has asked Islamabad to further tighten its laws to bring individuals involved in money laundering and terror financing to task.

"The FATF has expressed satisfaction over the steps taken by Pakistan to curb terror financing and demanded that the country further tightens its laws to bring individuals involved in money laundering and terror financing to task," said The Express Tribune newspaper in a report.

Citing the recent conviction of Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistani officials said the judicial system in the country was fully independent and the courts were taking decisions on merit, which were being implemented.

The FATF observed substantial progress made by Pakistan in the implementation of 14 of the 27 recommendations about the country's anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) mechanism, Dunya News TV reported.

"Pakistan has adopted an effective strategy in the financial sector to curb terror financing and enhanced cooperation between institutions to combat transfer of funds to terrorists," it said.

Have tightened standards on terrorist financing: FATF

The report about the grey-listing came a day after FATF said several terrorist groups continue to benefit from funds raised through illegal activities and from supporters worldwide despite the international terror financing watchdog tightening the standards on flow of money.

India has maintained that Pakistan extends regular support to terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen, whose prime target is India, and has urged FATF to take action against Islamabad.

Without naming Pakistan, the FATF said in a statement that terrorists use various methods to gain financing, including using social media to identify new followers and to solicit financial or other forms of material support.

Individuals sympathetic to humanitarian causes or vulnerable to violent messaging are often targeted, it said.

"The FATF has tightened its standards on terrorist financing which has helped disrupt access to funds for groups such as ISIL and Al-Qaida. However, various groups still benefit from funds raised through illegal activity and from supporters worldwide," the Paris headquartered FATF said.

The FATF said it is monitoring terrorist financing risks and works to help authorities trace funding to strengthen prosecutions. "The FATF is also monitoring illicit financing via new payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies," it said.

Last week, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced Saeed to 11 years in two terror financing cases.

Saeed, a UN designated terrorist on whom the US has placed a $10 million bounty, was arrested on July 17, 2019 in the terror financing cases. The 70-year-old fiery cleric is lodged at the high-security Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan.

Pakistan has also recently informed FATF that JeM founder Masood Azhar and his family are "missing". Pakistan has claimed that there were only 16 UN designated terrorists in Pakistan, of which "seven are dead". Out of the nine who are alive, seven had applied to the UN for exemption from financial and travel restrictions.

The FATF plenary held in October 2019 had noted that Pakistan addressed only five out of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, responsible for a series of attacks in India.

The FATF had said it strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

The FATF currently has 39 members including two regional organisations — the European Commission and Gulf Cooperation Council. India is a member of the FATF consultations and its Asia Pacific Group.

(With inputs from PTI)